I’d gotten home after a long day bartending at the Nest and was right at my hotel room door when I saw it. It was on the ground, up against the door. A package from Mysterious Press. Even though I left the Daily Dispatch Beacon last year—journalism is dead—I was still getting galleys of books to review. They’d even found me in this flea pit.
I brought the package inside and fixed myself a Maker’s Mark. Then I tore it open. Probably some here-and-gone thriller with a gaudy cover, written by a hack.
Jesus. The new Jim Comey novel. Central Park West.
Comey was the communist tentpole who’d made my life hell in 2018. This beady-eyed pelican even tried to take down the President, and used some sleazy low-life tactics to try it. Then after he got shitcanned from the FBI—he was the top man—he cranked out a couple of nonfiction books about what a hotshot he is. Now he’s trying crime fiction. He was part of taking down Gambino, which should make me respect him. Then I see those pictures of Comey jumping up and down like a schoolgirl or in a Biden-Harris t-shirt and I begin to doubt.
I mean, what kind of a punk goes after the President, not face-to-face but by leaking to The New York Times? A weasel. Not to mention what he did to me in 2018. I’ll get to that.
Central Park West. The novel begins when Tony Burke, a former New York governor who left office tainted by a #MeToo scandal, is murdered in his Central Park West apartment. The killer dresses up like Tony’s estranged wife, Kyra, to gain access to the building. Then assistant U.S. attorney Nora Carleton, who’s prosecuting a mob case, has a star witness tell her the mafia was involved in Burke’s death.
I’m trying to make sense of this crap when there’s a knock at the door. It’s Patti, the woman from the room next door. Great, strong legs. Thick athlete’s legs. A cute Italian face and blonde hair cut short. She’s wearing tight Levi’s cut-off jeans because it’s summer, and a white halter top. She has a small scar on her left cheek, an old one. It happened during a bar fight when she was working the clubs back in the 1980s. When we were young and America hadn’t gone soft and socialist.
“You wanna go up?” she says.
We’ve been in this place in Baltimore for a few months, biding our time until we can figure out our next move. She’s divorced, shaking a fentanyl habit. I’m a drifter who left journalism because it’s too damned crooked. Sometimes on nice spring nights like tonight we sit up on the roof and drink beers and talk, listen to some music out of the little speaker Patti has that attaches to her phone.
I tell her I’m reading a book but will come up shortly. She says great. Then she says, “You know what I discovered about books? If the author can’t grab you in the first 20 pages or so, it’s not your fault—it’s their fault.”
I give Central Park West 20 pages. It’s clunky and full of cliches. The opening scene where Kyra’s impersonator takes out the governor is awful. She comes in and puts a gun to his neck and what does he do? He “finds his executive cadence” to speak to her. What’s an executive cadence? I don’t know. She replies: “For once, you’re not in charge Mr. Governor. And the beauty of the top floor in a prewar building is—what’s that expression?—nobody can hear you scream. You’d be much better off just doing what I say.”
Fucking monologuing. Killers don’t monologue unless it’s a James Bond movie or a comic book. They’re usually sneaky and quiet. They work quickly. The really smart ones pull levers behind the scenes so they don’t have to get their hands dirty.
That’s Comey. He was the jerk who got the ridiculous Steele dossier into the media. In 2016 Comey met with the President, told him a bunch of nonsense about Russians having intel on the president, then leaked it to the media. It was all a scam. As Bret Stephens wrote in The New York Times when Comey’s caper fell apart and one of his lackeys was indicted, “What this indictment further exposes is that James Comey’s F.B.I. became a Bureau of Dirty Tricks, mitigated only by its own incompetence—like a mash-up of Inspector Javert and Inspector Clouseau. Donald Trump’s best move as president (about which I was dead wrong at the time) may have been to fire him.”
It didn’t happen soon enough. In 2018 I was mixed up in a nasty political hit by the communists. I was accused of all kinds of garbage, all to keep an old high school buddy of mine off of the Supreme Court. They used me to try and kill him—and didn't care if I was roadkill in the process. To get through it I had to talk to the FBI—Comey’s FBI. Imagine what it was like walking in there as a nobody journalist knowing that the head of the bureau had tried to take out the President of the United States. I’m amazed I’m not now in some hole rotting with the January 6 knuckleheads.
I try Central Park West again, but it’s no use. Cliches, bad dialogue, awkward scenes. Patti’s right. It ain’t my fault it didn’t grab me. It’s Inspector Clouseau’s.
I toss the galley into the trash and go up to the roof. It’s a nice early summer night. The city below is quiet. Patti has a couple of lawn chairs out and a bucket full of cold beers. She’s got a great old tune by The Blue Nile coming out of the speakers. She sees me and comes up close. “How was your book, baby?” she says. I kiss her. “Forget about it,” I say. “Just another D.C. hack looking for a quick score.”